Publishers to Bush on memoir: Don't hurry

Publishers interviewed for an AP story today had a few words of advice to outgoing president George W. Bush: If you're thinking of writing a book, take your time.

"In a poor economy, it's not a great time for anyone to shop a book," the story notes, "and certainly not for a deeply unpopular president."

“If I were advising President Bush, given how the public feels about him right now, I think patience would probably be something that I would encourage,” said Paul Bogaards, executive director of publicity for Alfred A. Knopf.

The article goes on to point out that Bush has sometimes compared himself to Harry Truman, who was very unpopular when he left the White House in 1953 but is now widely regarded as an American hero. However, the story continues, "It took years for him to gain such affection and Truman's two-volume memoir, published in the 1950s, is less remembered than a book about him published in the 1990s, David McCullough's million-selling 'Truman.' "

"Only in hindsight will history show whether Bush is deemed to be a good president who sacrificed his presidency for what he believed in or whether history judges him to be a failed president,” said Marj Ross, president and publisher of the conservative Regnery Publishing.

Meanwhile, in the UK, there's a piece in today's Guardian by Rob Woodward pondering the connection between the writing skills of US presidents and their success in office.

Woodward notes that some of America's most successful presidents were also gifted writers. "Abraham Lincoln, perhaps the most revered of all American leaders, was also one his century's greatest writers," he writes. "Going back further in time, one cannot help but be struck by the literary talents of presidents such John Adams, James Madison, and especially Thomas Jefferson."

All of this bodes well for president-elect Barack Obama, says Woodward. Woodward judges Obama's two books – "Dreams from My Father" and "The Audacity of Hope" – to be "a cut above the usual tripe politicians slap between two covers."

In fact, he says, "Dreams from My Father" is easily the most honest, daring, and ambitious volume put out by a major US politician in the last 50 years."

However, Woodward takes a momentary break from his optimism to note the case of the 18th US president, Ulysses S Grant, "whose memoirs are regarded by many as one of the finest pieces of literature produced in 19th-century America, while his presidency is usually ranked as being among the most corrupt and incompetent in US history."

All of which takes us back to Ross's comment above: "Only in hindsight will history show" the success of a presidency.

In the cases of both Bush 43 and Obama, we have many years to wait.

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